The Athens three time gold medalist, Cătălina Ponor is one of the Romanian gymnastics team´s stars. She returned to elite competition this year after having become a coach. Now her new goal is to place as high as possible at next year´s London Olympics. In an interview for Wall-Street.ro, Cătălina Ponor discussed the price behind elite gymnastics, the status of a senior gymnast and her future in the sport.
It took 10 years of training for her to reach her first World Championship. At 17, Cătălina competed in the Athens Olympics, winning 3 gold medals with the team, on beam and floor. She stayed in competition until 2009 when she decided to leave for the USA, at the invitation of a former gymnast, to become a coach. At the beginning of this year, the gymnast returned to Romania and joined the team coached by Mariana Bitang and Octavian Bellu.
Despite the lack of medals at the Tokyo Worlds and a recent injury which kept her from competing at the Swiss Cup on the 6th of November, Cătălina still finds the spirit she needs to look forward to her next challenge: the 2012 Olympic Games.
Wall-Street.ro: Keeping in mind the Tokyo Worlds results, what can Romania achieve at the 2012 Olympics?
Cătălina Ponor: It´s too early to say. It all depends on the results of the daily trainings. There´s a lot of work to put in, a lot to catch up with and I hope we can cover the gaps in the little time we have and do our best at the Olympics.
Wall-Street.ro: Have you managed to make money from gymnastics? Have you invested the money and what would you invest in?
Cătălina Ponor: A few days ago I was reading about football being a very profitable sport. This happens because it´s a popular sport, for the masses. Gymnastics is a remote sport, as you well know, you don´t make a lot of money out of it. I am happy I can support myself though, I have my own income and have managed to build the house I like and own my favourite car.
I have not invested the money until now, but I intend on opening a gym where kids can learn to want to move. Unfortunately, in recent years PCs have taken over. I believe the kids who will want to practice some elite sport will want to move and will know where to go for that.
Wall-Street.ro: Do you believe you can live off gymnastics?
Cătălina Ponor: I don´t think you need many things to lead a healthy and happy life. You can live well off gymnastics. If you work hard, you are consistent and responsible, like this sport has taught us to, you can life well off anything.
Wall-Street.ro: How many years of training does it take to be successful?
Cătălina Ponor: It depends on the sport. With gymnastics, you start your senior career at 16. You need a lot of work, ambition and consistency to have great results. I can only say I trained for 10 years to get to my first World Championship. I think you can only talk about elite if you compete in senior international competitions with good results.
Wall-Street.ro: What does it take to stay on the podium?
Cătălina Ponor: The most important thing is health, then comes ambition and a lot of work.
Wall-Street.ro: What did you have to sacrifice in order to be an elite gymnast?
Cătălina Ponor: You cannot be part of elite without sacrifice. If you really want this you have to make sacrifices but after all the results, I do not regret any of them. The proportion of good results is balanced by the sacrifices you make, they go together. I am happy with what I have achieved and this motivates me even more for the Olympic Games.
Wall-Street.ro: What music do you like to listen to in training?
Cătălina Ponor: To be honest, I don´t listen to music in the gym. I´m paying attention to the coaches´ advice.
Wall-Street.ro: Why do you think football is all over the sports news?
Cătălina Ponor: Football is the “king” because everyone relates to it and it has high ratings. I´m sorry only this sport gets a lot of promotion, it´s not fair.
Wall-Street.ro: Have you managed to make money from endorsements?
Cătălina Ponor: As I have already said, unfortunately gymnastics is not as promoted as football, where you can sign this kind of important contracts.
Wall-Street.ro: How much longer do you think you can keep being a gymnast? What would you like to do after retirement?
Cătălina Ponor: I would like to be healthy and keep doing the sport that has given me so much satisfaction. If my health will force me to retire after the 2012 Olympics I will continue with what I started: coaching.
Wall-Street.ro: What does the Romanian Gymnastics Federation need to do to keep Romania on the podium and improve?
Cătălina Ponor: The Romanian Gymnastics Federation has always covered our every need, from housing, meals, medicine to little things. Maybe the Romanian gymnasts need more financial support to be motivated. I would like to highlight Gerovital´s support on the journey to the London Olympics.
Wall-Street.ro: What do you like to spend money on?
Cătălina Ponor: When I was younger I used to buy all kinds of unimportant things, my priorities were such at that time. Now, all my money is for the family, for my house.
Wall-Street.ro: What is the monthly cost of being an elite gymnast?
Cătălina Ponor: I cannot offer an exact figure, but there are costs behind all the things I mentioned before.
Wall-Street.ro: Have you had any sponsor before?
Cătălina Ponor: I would like to thank the main sponsor, Gerovital, which now supports the 2012 Olympic team.
Wall-Street.ro: Do you think Romania is investing enough in sport – and gymnastics – compared to other countries?
Cătălina Ponor: I believe it´s not enough but I hope this can change in the future. People need to be more open and appreciate young talent.
Translated by: RomanianGymnasticsFans